Postface en anglais

C’est la [vi] (That’s Life)


Nicolas Taffin – October 2005


In gathering together those men and women who brought the Pietà’s duet to life – and above all by letting the whole thing simmer awhile, for a period of several years – the photographer achieves an almost mathematical equation, in this case a subtraction, that allows him to pry open an aperture so as to grant us a glimpse of the phenomenon that he terms ‘[vi]’, or ‘life’. There were two photo sessions five years apart, and what transpires between these two moments is life in all its glory, a story in flesh and blood. When we casually say “C’est la [vi]” (“That’s life”), we really only have the faintest idea of what it truly means: it seems obvious, the sort of thing that simply is what it is – but what is it really? When we read the words that accompany these photos, the meaning seems anything but simple: it’s about discovery, separation, gestation, truth, suffering, discourse, pleasure, loss, silence, seduction, finesse, reproach, happiness, silliness, falsehood and enjoyment. Can all this add up to a single life? Improbable as it seems, it’s all that and more – you can add a wealth of elements that are even more disparate and contradictory.

In school they taught me that you can’t add apples and oranges together – contrast this with these photos of the Pietà, where it’s not about what’s been added so much as the subtraction of the usual accoutrements. Immodest? Simply reading the passages that complement the photos establishes the point at which modesty comes to terms with nudity, and vice versa. It’s hard to lie (to yourself) when you’re naked – just ask the torturers of the world why they start by stripping a man bare: it’s the first step in the process of abuse. But in this book, nudity is consensual, at times even longed for. Isn’t it remarkable that to document a life the photographer must first stop it in its tracks? If the truth is not spoken here, it may still be writ large or even shouted for all to hear. Whatever the case, these are bodies revealed not so much by the spirit as by their ripeness, by the blood coursing through their flesh. Seize it and savour it – quickly, while you can.

Like a vine, life starts from next to nothing, reaches out, latches on and climbs, takes root and proliferates. At once rooted in the earth and bathed by the sun, it lies fallow, strengthens, and draws energy from its leaves while its roots drink in water that will later surge forth in its fruit. And even when life is sweet, rich, juicy and full to bursting, decay is already gaining ground, scattering clusters of grapes before autumn, their juice unharvested; what’s left behind withers and yellows. The spark of life then extinguishes itself and withdraws underground, leaving behind only a dried-out stem. And yet: in its winter, life waits in mad hope for the season when it is perpetually destined to spring forth again.

©Gregor Podgorski ::: @contact